Monday, December 31, 2012

Thanks, 2012!

Most popular image in our Texas Mountain Trail
Facebook page, taken in July by Monte Riggs of Marfa
As we close the year, we want to share our thanks with the MANY people dedicated to our little non-profit organization and the Texas mountain communities we serve.  We've been blessed with help from publishers, photographers, videographers, writers, historians, hoteliers, restauranteurs, graphic designers, computer tech folks, regional and state non-profit organizations including our partner Texas Heritage Trail regions, state and national park staff members, museum friends,  the preservation community including the Texas Historical Commission, community champions and of course, our travelers.

Some of the highlights of our year:

Launch of the Peak Fitness Challenge (which might tally over 1,000 miles hiked TODAY!)

Preparation of the second edition of the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail Map (available in 2013)
Social media storytelling projects:  Dining along Historic Highways, Cycling in 1895, with more to come!

Launch of our new website, www.texasmountaintrail.com

Our dining promotion on #FoodieChats on Twitter

Our wonderful photography intern, Dan Baeza, took terrific images of Van Horn and the region, of Cobra Rock Boot Makers (for a social media storytelling project) AND created the Clark Hotel Museum's first-ever website.  (Great job, Dan!)

Daily posts of adventures, heritage, events, and photos right here on the Texas Mountain Trail Daily Photo blog (now more than 1,700 daily entries!) and our Facebook page and Twitter!

Speaking engagements and travel show representation ALL over Texas, enticing travelers to visit the Texas Mountain Trail region!

Launch of our first-ever membership system....read more here, and become a member here! 

MOST OF ALL, our heartiest thanks to all the friends, volunteers and board members who make Texas Mountain Trail what it is today!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wildlife at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center...watch and enjoy!

Last year, we took this short 16 second video at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens outside Fort Davis.
Here's a photograph of that same beetle

Want to learn more?  Here's a terrific TED Talks video about dung beetles, their behavior and how and why they roll balls of dung:
Just so you know the Nature Center isn't all about dung beetles, here are some other photos we took the same September day...enjoy!

 
Now you can JOIN the non-profit Texas Mountain Trail and support our efforts to connect travelers with their own adventure in Far West Texas.  Click here to join!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Visiting McDonald Observatory

A winter view of the Davis Mountains from the top of McDonald Observatory, north of Fort Davis.

Our region's skies are among the darkest you'll find anywhere...we're a perfect place to see the night sky and enjoy the stars and planets.  Many travelers to the region plan to attend a STAR PARTY.  We agree, this is a highlight of many trips out to the mountains...our tip?  Regardless of season, wear a hat and warm clothing.  At the Observatory's high altitude, it gets cold after dark, even in the summer!
 
Want to get up to speed on what you can see in the night sky?  Take a look at the Observatory's Stardate website, click here!
 
Click here to get to the Observatory's Visitor Center website, including links to schedule notes for Spring Break 2013.  Click here for the Observatory's FAQ page.
 
 
From the historic site marker at the top of the Observatory complex:
 
"Original unit in complex forming one of the greatest observatory centers in the world.  Built in teh 1930s under terms of legacy from William Johnson McDonald (1844-1926).  A Paris (Texas) banker interested in the stars. A well-educated man, McDonald lived frugally.  As a hobby, he read science books and viewed planets through a small telescope.  His will granted to the Universityy of Texas $800,000 "to build an observatory and promote the study of Astronomy." 
 
"This site was selected because of its high ratio of clear nights, its 6,800 foot altitude, its distance from artificially-lighted cities, and its quite low altitude which permits the observation of southern skies."
 
"The Observatory was operated for its first 25 years mainly by astronomers from the University of Chicago, more recently primarily from the University of Texas.  Until 1948, its 82-inch telescope was the second-largest in the world.  Its fine work and site has resulted in the addition of other telescopes, including a 107-inch instrument sponsored jointly by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and the University of Texas."
 
"Discoveries here have included interstellar polarization and the satellites of several planets. (1968)

Now you can JOIN the Texas Mountain Trail (a 501 c 3 non-profit organization) and get advance notice of special events and opportunities in the Far West Texas region.  Click HERE!

Friday, December 28, 2012

To Stay Plugged In or NOT?

YES!  You can connect to the internet from the patio
of the Chisos Mountain Lodge in Big Bend National Park!
Chat with your friends as the sun sets in view of "The Window!"
But are you sure you want to plug in?

Here's a tip for your trip to the Texas Mountains:  bring your phone, or your tablet, but don't plug in!  This is your best opportunity to RELAX and enjoy the quiet, the unspoiled vistas, the uncrowded towns. 

We live in the most remote part of Texas, and sometimes connections are quite tenuous...you won't find connectivity everywhere.  But that's part of the charm and the value of BEING here. 

Now you can JOIN the Texas Mountain Trail...click HERE! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hike the Peak Fitness Challenge!

Hikers in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Franklin Mountains State Park!  Join the Peak Fitness Challenge and all the miles you hike qualify you for prize drawings EVERY month!  Sign in, log your miles now, it is FREE and fun! 

Click here to learn more about the "Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes," which are a part of the challenge!

Big big thanks to our friends at PhiDev, Inc. and GeoBetty.com in El Paso, along with the park's superintendents, interpretive and other staff members.  Y'all are terrific partners and we're so very grateful for your enthusiastic support of our Texas Mountain Trail
 
Now you can JOIN the Texas Mountain Trail and help suppport some terrific projects including the Peak Fitness Challenge CLICK HERE to join!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Marfa's U.S.O. Hall....Visit it Today!

The interior of Marfa's U.S.O. Hall is nearly untouched from
its heyday during World War II.  Now the town's Visitor Center, you can
see it yourself...just south one block from the blinking light
in the center of town on Hwy 67 South.
Yesterday, we posted the 1941 Christmas menu from Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa, as part of our "Dining Along Historic Highways" series.  (See the full document--inside and out--HERE with our thanks to the Alpine's Museum of the Big Bend)   Today, take a look inside the U.S.O. Hall from that era! 

With the historical exhibits and photographs of soldiers and airmen, it takes little imagination to put yourself back into Marfa, 1941.

Read more about World War II in Texas, here.
Other Fort D.A. Russell sites you can visit in Marfa today include:
Building 98
Chinati Foundation

JOIN the Texas Mountain Trail!  Click HERE!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

See inside a 1941 Fort D.A. Russell Christmas Menu!

Click HERE to see inside....a Christmas menu from Fort D.A. Russell in 1941, plus places you can still visit in Marfa to put you back in the Fort during W.W.II.

The full document is part of our continuing series on "Dining Along Historic Highways!"

Happy Holidays to everyone from the Texas Mountain Trail!  And hearty thanks to the Museum of the Big Bend, Marfa Public Library/Portal to Texas History and Monte Riggs for content for this special feature!  Y'all are great!

JOIN the Texas Mountain Trail!  Click HERE!

Monday, December 24, 2012

December photos around the region!

Photos from around the region in December.....warm, cold, cozy, adventurous!

Magoffin Home Historic Site in El Paso
Run on Hwy 54 north of Van Horn
Santa at the Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa

South Rim, Big Bend National Park

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December Hike at CDRI

Want a short (wonderful) excursion while in Fort Davis?  Try the hiking trails at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center.  For a short admission fee, treat  yourself to scenic vistas, interesting rock croppings and access to the botanical gardens and a cactus greenhouse...and for a (very) last minute shopping trip, try their Visitor Center gift shop! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wishing you the light of the season!

From Van Horn's Lighted Christmas Parade earlier
this month.  Van Horn is the Crossroads of the
Texas Mountain Trail, home to our organization and
generous supporter of all we do!  Thanks, Van Horn!
Join us as a Texas Mountain Trail member!

Every non-profit organization relies on supporters and we're so grateful for the many folks who help us do what we do everyday...connect folks to their own adventure in the mountains.  Now, for the first time, we're offering memberships (with terrific benefits) to folks everywhere who love the Texas Mountains.  Click HERE to learn more and sign up yourself!  (And yes, if you want to give a gift membership, that's possible too!  Just make a notation in the comments section as you  make your gift online!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What does the Texas Mountain Trail do?

Wildflowers in Big Bend National Park
We also travel all over Texas, visiting with folks, encouraging
them to head to the mountains and find their own adventure.
We visit one-on-one with 8,000 and 10,000 people a year, at
outdoor stores, marathon expos, travel shows, cycling events,
anywhere we think we'll find travelers with a special affinity to
the region.

We let you know what's happening in Far West Texas, from special events of note, to when the wildflowers are blooming, EVERY DAY we offer information and images through this blog (more than 1,700 daily entries so far), our website, our Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Special anniversary event
at Brewster County Courthouse, Alpine

Unburned campsite at Davis Mtns
State Park, April 2011
 When we're especially needed, like during the April 2011 wildfire, we spread the word about Fort Davis'  attractions and hotels surviving...even before the Chamber of Commerce could get back into their offices.  Through our work with reporters and list-serves, we prevented rumors from taking hold.
 
We're sharing special stories with you on social media, like our "Dining Along Historic Highways," which not only offers heritage information, but ideas for places you can visit and dine today.  Last fall we offered a "Day at the Fort" project through videos with bugle calls at Fort Davis, and a "Cycling in 1895" feature on El Paso.  We have more projects in line for the coming months, including boot-making and the CCC legacy in the region.


Dining Along Historic Highways,
one of our social media storytelling projects
We also work with our communities to provide special services for visitors, including our cycle-friendly hotels, our historic hotels list, the Peak Fitness Challenge and the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail.  Without Texas Mountain Trail, these special services would not exist in the region!
 
JOIN us! 
 
Our Texas Mountain Trail relies on support from visitors and residents of Far West Texas, and we're incredibly grateful for donors and volunteers!  JOIN us today, and click HERE to become a member!  We're offering terrific benefits and membership levels start at $25!   
 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Mountain Towns are Decorating!

The historic Hotel Limpia in Fort Davis, ready for the holidays!


Our mountain communities are decorating, getting ready for the holidays.  If you are heading our way, please keep this tip in mind:

With the exception of El Paso, many restaurants and hotels are family-owned and family-staffed and may be offering limited hours during Christmas and News Years.  Please plan your holidays ahead of time, call ahead to check times and  make reservations!

Still need a place to stay?  To start, check out our historic hotels and our cycle-friendly properties.

Year End Reminder:

The Texas Mountain Trail is a 501 c 3 non-profit serving the mountain communities of Far West Texas, providing service to visitors and residents alike.  We work to connect friends with their own personal adventure in the mountains...this blog and our social media projects alone take nearly 1,000 hours of staff and volunteer time and we're proud to bring you images and travel advice, information on events EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Become a member of the Texas Mountain Trail here.  (We're offering TERRIFIC benefits to our members!!!)  Learn more about our organization by watching the video below!  Thanks for your support!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Become a member of the Texas Mountain Trail!

Thanks to our friend, the El Paso Troubadour, Cliff Seaman, we offer this view of the Old West in the Texas Mountain Trail region to you!  (Thanks, Cliff!)

Please consider joining as a Texas Mountain Trail member, learn more:  www.texasmountaintrail.com/members

Our online giving page is here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting the word out to you

Our mission:  to find and share the adventure and
heritage of Far West Texas with all of you!
(Our Director in front of one of the highway signs
along the original driving route, the "Texas
Mountain Trail"
It is truly a labor of love to share our Texas Mountain Trail region with the world, to find adventure and heritage opportunities for travelers and residents of the Far West Texas, to connect all of you with "the time of your lives."


 
Our friend, Dave Gibson of DAKVideo in Abilene
volunteers his time and expertise to produce our video (below)

 
Every non-profit organization, and Texas Mountain Trail is a 501 c 3, needs support from friends to build programs.  We're blessed with GREAT volunteers who lend their time and expertise to the cause...board members from all over the region, volunteers who raise their hands and say, "hey, I want to help."

And we have friends who love this blog and our work on Facebook and Twitter, who know it takes time AND money to travel the region to find those great places, and across the state to meet travelers.
Now we're asking friends to contribute in a new way, to become members of our little non-profit.  In return, we've built some neat NEAT benefits as thank you's, and as opportunities to deepen your connection to the mountain.

Watch this volunteer-made video below, and then click on our giving page to become a member yourself!
Need more information?  Click here to read our case statement.  Or visit the members page on our website, www.texasmountaintrail.com/members

THANK YOU!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Support the Texas Mountain Trail!


Photographing images for our "Dining Along Historic
Highways" series last Saturday

When you make your annual contributions this year, may we suggest an unconventional choice?

Since 2005, the Texas Mountain Trail has been supporting the communities of Far West Texas, and connecting visitors to their own personal adventure in the mountains.

Who are we, and what is the Texas Mountain Trail?  Watch this video made by a friend of our organzation.

We travel all over Texas, and over the course of the year, visit one-on-one with up to 8,000 to 10,000 visitors promoting our region, which helps the economies of our mountain communities.

Since 2008, we've posted DAILY photos right here on this blog with heritage and adventure information, and we're so incredibly grateful for the network of photographers and champions of our region who've helped us.   And in 2010, we added Facebook to our efforts to reach out to folks both in the region and outside the region to spread the gospel about great places right here. 

Now, you can become a friend...but WHY?  As a non-profit, we depend on support to do our work, grants, community support and individual donations.  In recent years, many grant opportunities have dried up; and while our communities have been incredibly supportive of our work, their budgets are stretched.  We're working to find new opportunities to sustain and support our work.  Yes, we're a 501 c 3 non-profit organization!

If you've enjoyed this blog, and our facebook page, and twitter account, please consider joining us in this important endeavor.  Through our friends, we're offering TERRIFIC benefits, including discounts at REI and at the Museum of the Big Bend and through the Friends of Big Bend National Park too.  Make this your most unconventional donation (but maybe the most fun one!) this year!

Information about joining (including making a donation through the mail) is here.
Our online giving page is here!  (Joining online is easy and immediate!)

Oh!  And YES, we do offer gift memberships.  Simply let us know the name and address (and email address too, please) of the individual receiving the gift membership and we'll make it happen!  (If giving a gift membership online, simply indicate "this is a gift membership" in the comment field after you make your donation, and we'll contact you offline for details! 

THANK YOU to everyone who contributes to Texas Mountain Trail's success.  We want to continue to bring the beauty, heritage, romance, and adventure of the mountains to you EVERYDAY in 2013!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wow, what a view!

View from Salt Basin Overlook Trail
Photo courtesy, Dennis Vasquez, Superintendent,
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park offers great views of the pristine desert and forest lands, and terrific hiking and wilderness experiences too.  Here's a great view from the Salt Basin Overlook Trail, a new entry into the Peak Fitness Challenge.  Hike this trail, log your miles online and you'll be eligible for prize drawings...sign up here!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How would you like to drive in the Mountains in one of these?

 
 
This lovely vehicle takes a starring role in a little "dream" document we created for our "Dining Along Historic Highways" series...this one...on the Bankhead Highway!  From our website:  "This historic route, established in 1919 and considered the first paved transcontinental highway, connected Washington, D.C. with San Diego as part of the National Auto Trail system. The Texas segment was pieced together county by county entering from the east at Texarkana swinging down to Dallas and making its way across Texas to exit at El Paso." In our Texas Mountain Trail region, the old Bankhead Highway generally follows 1-20 from Midland/Odessa to I-10 around Kent, through Van Horn and Sierra Blanca, then through the backroads to the Mission Trail and El Paso.  CLICK HERE to get to our visual introduction to dining along the Bankhead Highway today...there's more to come in the weeks and months ahead! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dining Along Historic Highways

The Clark girls of Van Horn, in front of
their home, the Clark Hotel, now
a museum.  Across the street, the
Hotel El Capitan, now operating as
a hotel/restaurant

Over the next few months, we're going to have some fun with dining along historic highways in the Texas Mountain Trail region.  We'll share old menus, recipes, photos and information about places where you can get a fantastic meal today.  One of those places is the Hotel El Capitan, completely and lovingly restored.  Located on both the Bankhead Highway and the Old Spanish Trail and at the Crossroads of the Texas Mountain Trail, Van Horn is a town with a great history of taking care of travelers for more than 100 years.

Imagine when we happened upon a 1934 recipe for Icebox Cookies from Van Horn recently, and we couldn't wait to share them with all of you.  They feature pecans, a local crop.  We can't help of thinking of those Clark girls munching on them, watching travelers drive through their town.
We put together a three-page spread of photos of that intersection in the photo above, of both the Clark Hotel and the Hotel El Capitan AND that cookie recipe!  Click here to see it all! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Join us tonight for #FoodieChats!!

Tonight, food lovers everywhere are invited to join a special Twitter chat, and Texas Mountain Trail will be leading the conversation! Here's a great (and free!) opportunity to share our thoughts about dining in Far West Texas with foodies, food bloggers and food writers! 

What is #Foodiechats?
#Foodiechats is a regular Monday evening Twitter chat with foodies, food bloggers and food writers; their hashtag #foodiechats is a regular trending topic on Monday nights from 7-8:30 CENTRAL, 6-7:30 MOUNTAIN time. They have a huge following; we hope to gain their attention!

Our goals?

1) Introduce our beautiful region and our great dining options, so participants can no longer say, "Wait, there are MOUNTAINS in Texas?!?" and encourage them to say, "Huh, looks like you can eat good food out there!"

2) Allow each of YOU to showcase dining options in your community and at your favorite restaurant

How will it work?

Texas Mountain Trail negotiated a non-profit rate to be featured in the FoodieChat's email newsletter, Monday, December 10th. We'll have the opportunity to pose THREE questions which will allow us to showcase Far West Texas to the twitter group:

Though still in draft, those questions will be something like:

Q1 #Foodiechats via @trailgirl What's the best meal you had in the middle of nowhere?
Q2 #Foodiechats via @trailgirl Describe a meal or dish that reflected a place's heritage or history
Q3 #Foodiechats via @trailgirl What's the best meal or most surprising meal you had on the road?

We'll also be posting under our @trailgirl handle, with special content such as a feature on "Dining Along Historic Highways" and other dining options from Marathon and Big Bend all the way to El Paso.

How do you participate?

1) Follow @Foodiechats and @steveGOgreen and @trailgirl on Twitter, and on Monday, December 10, follow the Hashtag #Foodiechats.

2) Following the hashtag allows you to view and respond to everyone who is on the weekly chat. Include each response with the #Foodiechats hashtag, and you're in the chat

3) Answer the questions, post photos of places, restaurants, dishes via Twitter or Instagram to the #Foodiechat hashtag Please ALSO add the hashtag #TexMtns to your tweet, and if you'd like, a hashtag for your community, such as #Alpine #Marfa #ElPaso (And YES! Posting photos, while not required, give folks a sense of the beauty of our region and our dining options!)

Our success depends on the number of folks participating! Grab your Twitter friends, and encourage them to get tweeting about dining in our Texas Mountain Trail region!

Do you have questions about how to participate? Email us at info@texasmountaintrail.org

We are offering this opportunity as a free way to promote your community and your favorite restaurant.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Las Posadas in Fort Davis last night

Click on any of the photos for a closer view! 
(Do you see the courthouse dome in the background?!?)

The procession leaving the Harvard hotel,
walking up the street to the Hotel Limpia.
Angels, shepherds, and kings alike enjoy cookies and cupcakes.
Last night, Fort Davis had their Las Posadas, a holiday-time procession through town, visiting hotel after hotel asking if the innkeepers would let Mary and Joseph in for the night.  A tradition popular in Mexico as well as our region, "Posadas" is Spanish for "lodging" or "accommodation." 

According to Wikipedia, "At each house, the resident responds by singing a song and Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter. Once the "innkeepers" let them in, the group of guests come into the home and kneel around the Nativity scene to pray. Latin American countries have continued to celebrate this holiday to this day, with very few changes to the tradition.

In some places, the final location may be a church instead of a home.


Individuals may actually play the various parts of Mary (MarĂ­a) and Joseph with the expectant mother riding a real donkey (burro), with attendants such as angels and shepherds acquired along the way, or the pilgrims may carry images of the holy personages instead.





The procession leaves Hotel Limpia
 Would you like to see and learn more about this tradition and Christmas in the borderlands?  Check out this video from Texas Parks and Wildlife about the Las Posadas at Fort Leaton near Presidio!

 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Scenes from the River Road

Hwy 170 between Terlingua and Presidio offers some of the very best wilderness scenery anywhere.  From the edge of Big Bend National Park, through the southern boundary of Big Bend Ranch State Park and along the Rio Grande....enjoy the ride!
Hwy 170 is part of the historic driving route, the Texas
Mountain Trail designated to celebrate Texas in anticipation
of San Antonio hosting the World's Fair in 1968